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One doo-wop quartet that never fails to wow DWS audiences is The Calvanes, who have been together now, off and on, since 1954. Whether they're reprising their own songs or singing such classics as "Sh-Boom," these guys really capture the feel and sound of a 1950s vocal group.
The original members first got together at Manual Arts High School in South-Central Los Angeles. They were lead singer Carlyle Dundee, 2nd tenor Lorenzo "Bobby" Adams, 1st tenor Sterling Meade, baritone Stewart Crunk and bass Jack Harris. As Bobby Adams recalls, "Carlyle heard us rehearsing and stated that he had contacts in the music industry and two songs that he wanted to record, with him as lead singer. After a few rehearsals and an introduction to producer Lee Silver, we did his songs as The Dundees." After they recorded the 1954 single under the name Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees, Dundee himself left the group. The remaining four background singers stayed with Silver long enough to record two more songs, with Bobby Adams on lead, under the name The Wonders. Shortly afterward, the quartet broke up.
In 1955, Crunk and Adams decided to get back together. After recruiting their former bass singer, Jack Harris, they found second tenor Joe Hampton and first tenor Herman Pruitt, who had a smooth, soulful way with ballads. They called themselves The Calvanes, an odd name that Crunk came up with because, as he said at the time, "It just sounded good." To prepare themselves for the big time, the quintet paid Cornelius Gunter of the then-popular Flairs (and later of The Coasters) to whip them into musical shape. "We could go out and sing R&B or straight pop music," said Pruitt. "We could sound completely white if we wanted to." But in August 1955, when they visited Walter "Dootsie" Williams, whose Dootone label, located at his home at 95th and Central Avenue, was hot thanks to the success of The Penguins' "Earth Angel," Williams wanted to hear only R&B, and more specifically their own material. Stewart Crunk, the group's bespectacled tunesmith, happened to have a song or two.
They recorded at least seven original songs for Dootone. The first single was Crunk's ballad, "Don't Take Your Love (From Me)," backed by an uptempo number, "Crazy Over You," written by a local girl named Nellie Brown. Pruitt sang lead on both sides. The record did great business around California and landed them on a couple of TV shows, including Hunter Hancock's "Rhythm & Bluesville."
Unfortunately, their second single, "Florabelle," pleased neither the group nor record buyers, nor even Dootsie Williams, who later admitted that he'd recorded the song as a form of payola to the disc jockey who'd written it. ("Florabelle" has never been reissued on EP, LP or CD.) As Bobby Adams recalls, "'They Call Me Fool' and 'One More Kiss' was supposed to be our follow-up single. However, Dootsie had a disc jockey friend named Zeke Manners who wrote a song about his girlfriend named Florabelle. Zeke persuaded Dootsie to record it, against the wishes of the group. That song took us down the tubes. We broke up in '57 after a dispute with Dootsie."
The Calvanes regrouped as a quartet in 1958 when Bobby Adams, Herman Pruitt and Stewart Crunk recruited a new bass singer, Freddie Willis, and recorded two singles for Hite Morgan's Deck label. When Willis was drafted into the Army, Adams, Pruitt and Crunk picked up Sidney Dunbar and recorded for RCA as The Nuggets. But by 1962 they were all fed up with the music business and departed to find regular jobs. Bobby Adams eventually became a decorated Los Angeles cop and professional bodyguard for Mayor Tom Bradley--and later head of security for singers Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. Jack Harris went into private business and Joe Hampton worked for Los Angeles County.
In the late 1990, Bobby, Herman and Freddie resurrected The Calvanes by adding baritone singer Jimmy Corbitt (replacing Stewart Crunk, who had died in 1967), and this lineup has been performing successfully ever since. They recorded a single for Bruce Patch's Classic Arts Records, performed at the Greek Theater and Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood, traveled east several times to sing in Pittsburgh and New Jersey, and recorded with vocalist Big Sandy on his acclaimed 1998 Hightone CD, Dedicated to You, a tribute to Los Angeles R&B of the 1950s.
Here are the Calvanes backing up
Buddy Bailey of the Clovers
(in the grey suit) at DWS
Show #11 (10/26/91).
The Calvanes have appeared on a dozen DWS shows, and Los Angeles fans never get tired of seeing them, because The Calvanes are the most polished active doo-wop group in Los Angeles today and constantly coming up with new songs. (They recently went so far as to add "Florabelle" to their repetoire at the request of fans.) They also sang background for Buddy Bailey (former lead singer of The Clovers), George Grant (of The Castelles), Rudy West (of The Five Keys), Richard Berry, Gaynel Hodge, Leon Peels (of The Blue Jays) and Jewel Akins. They're also class guys all the way. You can contact them through the Doo-Wop Society of Southern California at (562) 493-9058.
For more about the Calvanes, see: Show #29 (2/20/1999) Show #34 (10/28/2000)
Singles Space 201* Never/Evil One 1954 Space 202** Bob Bop Baby/Little Girl 1955 Dootone 356*** Flee-O-Wee/They Call Me Fool 1970s Dootone 371 Don't Take Your Love (From Me)/Crazy Over You 1955 Dootone 380 Florabelle/One Kiss 1956 Deck 579 Dreamworld/5, 7 or 9+ 1958 Deck 580 My Love Song/Horror Movies+ 1958 Classic Artists 127 Take Me Back/Have You No Heart 1990 * Released as by Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees; Dundee on lead vocal. ** Released as by The Wonders; Bobby Adams on lead vocal. Only released on 78.
One 45rpm acetate was pressed but later stolen.
*** Bootleg, never issued by Dootone. + "5, 7 or 9 was a Fred Willis/Stewart Crunk duet; Fred Willis sang lead on "Horror Pictures."
Pruitt sang lead on the two A-sides.
Two songs from their Deck sessions, "Lavender" and "You're Only Young Once," remain unreleased. EPs Dootone 205 Voices For Lovers 1955 (Contains "Don't Take Your Love," "Crazy Over You," "They Call Me Fool" and "One More Kiss") LPs Dooto 224 The Best Vocal Groups in Rock 'N' Roll 1956 (Contains "Crazy Over You" and "Don't Take Your Love") Dootone 858 Rhythm and Blues 1972 (Contains "Flee-Oo-Wee") Ace CHD 242 The Dootone Story 1988 (Contains "Flee-Oo-Wee") Collectables 5048 Dootone Rhythm and Blues ? (Contains "Flee-Oo-Wee") CDs Ace CDCHD 242 The Dootone Story 1992 (Contains "Flee-Oo-Wee") Ace CDCHD 579 Dootone Doo-Wop Vol. 1 1995 (Contains "Flee-Oo-Wee" and an alternate take of "They Call Me Fool") Ace CDCHD 588 Dootone Doo-Wop Vol. 2 1997 (Contains "Crazy Over You," "One More Kiss" and an unreleased song,
"Baby Come On Home," which was misnamed "Baby Come on Come.")
Varese Sarabande 302 066 174 The Doo Wop Sound, Vol. 1 2000 (Contains "Take Me Back") Varese Sarabande 302 066 175 The Doo Wop Sound, Vol. 2 2000 (Contains "Have You No Heart") Hightone 8130 The Calvanes In Harmony 2001 Offshoot groups The Youngsters
(Herman Pruitt, Donald Miller, Charles Everidge, James Warren, Homer Green, Harold Murray)
Empire 109 Dreamy Eyes/Christmas in Jail 1956 Empire 110 Dreamy Eyes/I'm Sorry Now")* 1957 *Pruitt wasn't on this song. He did not sing lead with The Youngsters. The Hitmakers
(lead tenor* Rodney Gooden, bass and lead** Bobby Adams, 1st tenor Val Poliuto,
2nd tenor Don ? and baritone Duke ?)
Original Sound 02 Chapel of Love*/Cool School** 1959 The Nuggets
(Herman Pruitt, Sidney Dunbar, Freddie Willis, Bobby Adams)
RCA 47-7930 Angel on the Dance Floor/Before We Say Goodnight 1961 RCA 47-8031 Cap Snapper/Just a Friend 1962
Thanks to Bobby Adams, Herman Pruitt, the late Dootsie Williams, and Steve Propes, author of the upcoming L.A. Vocal Groups and Duets, 1945-1965 (Big Nickel Press), for their assistance with this profile of The Calvanes.
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